Sunday, August 01, 2004

BBC - French Army Moves to Sudan Border

What a surprise: talk about a 180-degree turnaround in foreign policy. I must be dreaming - doesn't feel like it though.

France is deploying 200 soldiers to help secure Chad's eastern border with Sudan's conflict-torn Darfur region.
The French Ambassador to Chad, Jean Pierre Bercot, said the troops would also bring humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of Darfur refugees in Chad.
Sudan-backed Arab militias has driven about a million civilians from their homes and mounted raids inside Chad.
Sudan said that despite reservations it would comply with a UN resolution ordering it to rein in the militias.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Dr Mustapha Osman Ismail said government's Council of Ministers' would take a final decision at a meeting on Sunday.


France has about 1,000 troops in Chad, who until now have been helping to promote stability and train Chadian forces for peacekeeping duties.
Ambassador Bercot told the BBC from Chad's capital, N'Djamena, that 200 French soldiers would now be deployed to Chad's eastern frontier with Sudan to help the aid effort and watch out for possible incursions.
"The French government and President Chirac wanted our troops here in Chad to assist the African Union in its observation role, as well as in securing the area on the Chadian side of the border," he said.
Mr Bercot said that for the time being the French contingent was to remain inside Chad after he was asked if the troops would engage with the Janjaweed if the militias crossed the border.
He stressed that the French troops would work alongside Chadian forces "with the complete authority and co-operation" of the government in N'Djamena.
Given that the frontier stretches through 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) of inhospitable terrain, this could be no more than a token presence, the BBC's Africa editor, Grant Ferrett, reports.
Nevertheless, the French military presence adds to the impression that the rest of the world is becoming more willing to take action over Darfur, our editor adds.
Token or otherwise, this is nonetheless the first meaningful indicator to the Sudanese government that the outside world won't idly stand by while it completes its project of ethnic cleansing, and for that reason the French are to be commended. Considering their oil interests in Sudan and their initial remarks as to the necessity of resolute UN action, the French were the last people on Earth I'd have expected to make a move like this one.